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venture of the frost is a stepping-stone in the second; the river is again covered and may be again broken up, but by and by, under a still lower temperature, the thing is done and the river permanently frozen over. Then the struggle is between the frost and the sun till, in the spring, the latter wins.
At least one thing is certain as the result of man's sojourn on this planet: he is becoming more and more at home on it, more and more on good terms with the nature around him. His childish fear and dread of it is largely gone. He now makes playfellows of things which once filled him with terror; he makes servants of forces that he once thought stood ready to devour him; he is in partnership with the sun and moon and all the hosts of heaven. He no longer peoples the air and the earth with evil spirits. The darkness of the night, or of caverns and forests, no longer conceals malignant powers or influences that are lying in wait to devour him. Even Milton speaks of
"this drear wood,
The nodding horror of whose shady brows
To us the wood is filled with beauty and interest;
prognostications have disappeared. Dread of Nature has been followed by curiosity about Nature, and curiosity has been followed by love. Men now love Nature as I fancy they have never loved her before. I fancy also that we have come to realize as never before the truth of the Creator's verdict upon his work: "And behold it was good."
To what do we owe this change? To the growth of the human reason led and fostered by science. Science has showed man that he is not an alien in the universe, that he is not an interloper, that he is not an exile from another sphere, or arbitrarily put here, but that he is the product of the forces that surround him. Science has banished the arbitrary, the miraculous, the exceptional, from nature, and instead of these things has revealed order, system, and the irrefragable logic of cause and effect. Instead of good and bad spirits contending with one another, it reveals an inevitable beneficence and a steady upward progress. It shows that the universe is made of one stuff, and that no atom can go amiss or lose its way.
When we look at man and his goings and comings at a far enough remove, I think we surely see that he is under laws and influences that he knows not of. In the Orient he shows one set of influences, in the Occident another. In the south he is of one temper, in the north of another. The stamp of his environment, of his climate, is upon him. Born in one age,
he is seized with the spirit of adventure and plants colonies and kingdoms. Born in another, he rusts out at home. One age is of one complexion, another of another; one is an age of faith, the next an age of skepticism; the enthusiasm of one age is the joke of the next. We are puppets all, and obey unseen masters. The Time-spirit sets its seal upon us. The electric currents or the waves of vibration that cause the steel filings to spring into patterns are like the influences in an age that cause men to form parties and groups of one kind or another, swayed by a common impulse, the origin of which is in the will of none of them.
What, then, becomes of the freedom of the will of which we are all conscious? We do as we like. Yes, but what determines our liking? In this freedom fate is deftly concealed. Our choice is along the lines of forces or inborn tendencies of which we are unconscious. We are free to do as our inherited traits, our temperament, our environment, our training, the influence of the climate over us, and the geography and geology about us and beneath us decide. But these things are vital in us, and therefore we are unconscious of them. Hence our sense of free choice is not obstructed; we still do as we like, only something beyond our wills determines what we shall like.
The intellectual nature of man was developed long before his moral nature. His sense of beauty,
of art, of ornament, is older than his sense of justice. or mercy. Indeed, he was a religious being before he was a moral being. He worshiped and offered sacrifices before he dealt justly and humanely with his fellow.
Unless what we mean by good prevailed over the bad, we should not be here. If some sort of order and peace had not come out of the primal warring of the elements, man could not have appeared. The waters have been gathered together, the continents have been lifted up, the vapors have learned to form clouds, the soil has been formed, and the benediction of the flowers and of the grass is upon the hills. The destructive elemental forces have subsided. In nearly all parts of the earth man can subsist. The benevolence of Providence is seen in this general, inevitable course of nature. Right actions meet with their reward; health and wholeness are possible; deal fairly and squarely with Nature, and you always get the worth of your money. We know the conditions of disease; we know the conditions of health. The ways of the Eternal are appointed, and we may find them out.
Truly to obey the will of God is our salvation, but we must look for this will, not in some book or creed, but in the order of the universe, in the sequence of cause and effect.